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Daily Pilot

Decking the halls with song

Teacher organizes songfest every year as payback for care the facility provided to an injured friend.

By Jeremiah Dobruck

7:08 PM PST, December 7, 2012

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In front of a group of seniors, about 20 parents and students, mostly from Woodland Elementary School in Costa Mesa, launched into "Deck the Halls."

The activities director at Flagship Healthcare Center in Newport Beach encouraged the roomful of patients as she danced along: "You know the words," said Debby Beer.

The ever-changing but small group has come to Flagship to sing, decked out with Santa hats, gifts and cards, since 2004.

The one constant has been Kristin Fredriksson, a second-grade teacher at Woodland.

In the lobby, she prepped her makeshift chorus.

"Be really tender and gentle with all the patients here. The staff is fantastic," she said.

Fredriksson said she has personal reasons to believe that.

In 2004 her son's father was admitted to Flagship after a bad fall, she said. So, Fredriksson took their son, who was then in grade school, and decided to take Christmas to Flagship, where they caroled room-to-room.

"I've had probably my best experiences of Christmas at this place. And they have been so wonderful to someone I know," Fredriksson said. "If I think about it too long I'll cry.

She's made it her annual event as a thank-you to the nursing home, she said.

"You guys were awesome, so this is payback for that, still," she added.

Now she curates a book of songs and recruits friends, parents and fellow teachers.

Woodland teacher Cheryl Roberts has attended with her two kids, Benjamin and Heather, for five years.

"It's fun seeing how they smile when we come sing," said Heather, who was 10 when she started.

Benjamin said his favorite song to sing is "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," but often "Silent Night" will be requested.

Beer, who has been the activities director at Flagship since 2009, said every year she's excited to get Fredriksson's call setting up the caroling.

"It's become a nice tradition," she said. "It's really wonderful."

jeremiah.dobruck2@latimes.com

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck